Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Solon

Previous | Next


which is probable, there is some ellipsis, or want of precision in
the language, and it should run thus:- "Those that are convicted of
such offences as belong to the cognisance of the Areopagites, Ephetae,
or the Prytanes, when this law was made," shall remain still in disgrace,
whilst others are restored; of this the reader must judge.
Amongst his other laws, one is very peculiar and surprising, which
disfranchises all who stand neuter in a sedition; for it seems he
would not have any one remain insensible and regardless of the public
good, and securing his private affairs, glory that he has no feeling
of the distempers of his country; but at once join with the good party
and those that have the right upon their side, assist and venture
with them, rather than keep out of harm's way and watch who would
get the better. It seems an absurd and foolish law which permits an
heiress, if her lawful husband fail her, to take his nearest kinsman;
yet some say this law was well contrived against those who, conscious
of their own unfitness, yet, for the sake of the portion, would match
with heiresses, and make use of law to put a violence upon nature;
for now, since she can quit him for whom she pleases, they would either
abstain from such marriages, or continue them with disgrace, and suffer
for their covetousness and designed affront; it is well done, moreover,
to confine her to her husband's nearest kinsman, that the children
may be of the same family. Agreeable to this is the law that the bride
and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber, and eat a quince together;
and that the husband of an heiress shall consort with her thrice a
month; for though there be no children, yet it is an honour and due
affection which an husband ought to pay to a virtuous, chaste wife;
it takes off all petty differences, and will not permit their little
quarrels to proceed to a rupture.
In all other marriages he forbade dowries to be given; the wife was
to have three suits of clothes, a little inconsiderable household
stuff, and that was all; for he would not have marriages contracted
for gain or an estate, but for pure love, kind affection, and birth
of children. When the mother of Dionysius desired him to marry her
to one of his citizens, "Indeed," said he, "by my tyranny I have broken
my country's laws, but cannot put a violence upon those of nature
by an unseasonable marriage." Such disorder is never to be suffered
in a commonwealth, nor such unseasonable and unloving and unperforming
marriages, which attain no due end or fruit; any provident governor
or lawgiver might say to an old man that takes a young wife what is
said to Philoctetes in the tragedy-
"Truly, in a fit state thou to marry! and if he find a young man,
with a rich and elderly wife, growing fat in his place, like the partridges,
remove him to a young woman of proper age. And of this enough.
Another commendable law of Solon's is that which forbids men to speak
evil of the dead; for it is pious to think the deceased sacred, and
just, not to meddle with those that are gone, and politic, to prevent
the perpetuity of discord. He likewise forbade them to speak evil
of the living in the temples, the courts of justice, the public offices,
or at the games, or else to pay three drachmas to the person, and
two to the public. For never to be able to control passion shows a
weak nature and ill-breeding; and always to moderate it is very hard,
and to some impossible. And laws must look to possibilities, if the
maker designs to punish few in order to their amendment, and not many
to no purpose.
He is likewise much commended for his law concerning wills; before
him none could be made, but all the wealth and estate of the deceased
belonged to his family; but he by permitting them, if they had no
children to bestow it on whom they pleased, showed that he esteemed
friendship a stronger tie than kindred, affection than necessity;
and made every man's estate truly his own. Yet he allowed not all
sorts of legacies, but those only which were not extorted by the frenzy
of a disease, charms, imprisonment, force, or the persuasions of a
wife; with good reason thinking that being seduced into wrong was
as bad as being forced, and that between deceit and necessity, flattery

Previous | Next
Site Search